Stories of our adult language learners achieving language confidence

Lia's story
Lia meeting with her tutor and director of LL&B, George after 1 year of learning Greek online

Learning a Language for Meaningful Relationships

Why Emily wanted to learn Greek

Emily is 42 years old and teaches literature at uni. She came to Language for Life and Business to learn Greek after several unsuccessful attempts at other language schools.

That’s what she first wrote to us:

“My husband is Greek but we usually speak English with his family and friends. Not being able to speak their language often leaves me feeling that I’m missing out on more meaningful conversation and that I can’t move on from basic courtesies. I also want to learn the language to communicate confidently with my husband’s grandmother who speaks no English whatsoever.”

We then discussed her background in learning Greek and her level at that point. Emily said that she studied Greek at an established language school in London but that her class seemed so focussed on written grammar and rules that she was often left feeling that what she was learning was totally irrelevant to the language she actually needed.

Emily was now planning a trip in three months and wished to try something different, hoping that she could go to Greece feeling more confident about her language skills.

Emily's language goal

Two months to learn a language and speak fluently enough to develop meaningful relationships in it. It was a tall order, but we took up the challenge.

Emily’s main problem at her first language school was that her spoken language confidence was very low. She simply needed more structured and relevant practice.

She had the option to speak Greek with her husband but she said she was embarrassed by how long those conversations took and often resorted to finishing her sentences in English. She needed someone she could trust to be patient enough to build up her language confidence sentence by sentence.

So, we made a plan tailored for Emily’s needs:

Our Plan for Emily

We focussed on speaking in both polite and casual forms so she would be ready to speak confidently, whatever the situation.
We discussed local Greek food customs, as the grandmother was the family’s main cook. Through dialogues both spoken and written, we explored important colloquial expressions so she could feel at home in a Greek kitchen and restaurant.
We developed her vocabulary around expressing feelings so she could convey her real emotions to her husband’s family.
We concentrated on learning the language and expressions that their grandmother would most likely use and practised them at speed in her real Greek accent.
So, did we help Emily to achieve her language goals?

Two months later Emily went on holiday to Greece. We had boosted her to learn the Greek of real life quickly through speaking and she seemed far more confident. After the holiday, we asked her how it went;

“Well, I got to speak with our grandmother in the way I’d always wanted to. I could understand her much better and she was so impressed that I could reply too! I felt we got to connect for the first time. This was so important and I was so happy.

I also discovered first-hand just how much Greeks really love their food. I never realised in the past that all these expressions were used so often to praise the food on the table! I can’t tell you how happy this made both my husband and me!”

Emily continues to learn Greek with us but is now aiming eventually to speak fluently. She feels confident to speak Greek with her husband and so has made learning a language a part of her daily life.

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Learning the Language of Business

Why Paul wanted to learn French

Paul was 55 years-old when he first called us.

He didn’t speak any foreign languages. “To be honest, I never saw the need”, he said. He had been working for the same company for 23 years and had always worked in English.

Then he was tasked to set up a new office in the French city of Nantes.

Though his boss reassured him that he’d get by in English, he knew he’d be able to do a better job if he learned the local language. But as a language learner, Paul was a complete beginner. While he spoke English fluently, of course, he didn’t have much of a grasp of English grammar – let alone French.

There were also time pressures. Paul was still running his office on the UK and had a six-month timeframe until the new French office opened.

We got to work immediately:

Our Plan for Paul

Paul’s language learning began with a fast-track grammar induction, working on customised written dialogues introducing language relevant to his business context.
 Convoluted rules, rare exceptions and unnecessary jargon were all avoided so Paul could quickly develop confidence speaking and reading.
Finally, we looked at the local business culture and customs in France and specifically in Brittany. Through this, Paul could better understand how he and the company would fit in.
Sources of real-life language like Twitter & business articles were used to gain relevant vocabulary and familiarise with the language he’d be using too.
Paul learned through conversation, only writing down important phrases to revise later. Lessons were made as close to real-life as possible so the experience was directly transferable.
So, did we help Paul to achieve his language goals?

As he learned the language, Paul was surprised at how fast he could grasp grammar when it was introduced in context. He also enjoyed that the lessons felt like a relaxing and enjoyable break from work, and got him more excited about the adventure ahead!

Paul proved to be a great asset for his company. He was able to communicate with local businesses and the administration in their native business language. His grasp of local customs and language proved essential too, helping to close deals with important clients, develop strong relationships and settle the office into the local community.

He is still a language learner with us, learning more everyday French for his continued holidays there.

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Brushing up on a forgotten language

Why Meira wanted to learn German

Meira, 29, grew up in a German family in London. The German language had always surrounded her. It was the way her family greeted each other and the mother tongue she automatically used to express strong emotions!

However, Meira was raised speaking English, which had become the only language she really felt she knew. Her understanding of German was somewhat muddled and this impacted her confidence using it. While she was advanced in certain German vocabulary and understanding, she lacked the necessary foundations of German grammar and everyday speaking skills beyond Guten Tag and Danke Schon!

Her insecurities around using the German language had grown over time. Meira had developed a reluctance to speak German as an adult. She had even become unsure about how she was expressing herself when using the vocabulary she did know.

Meira came to us with a determination to learn German and gain the confidence she lacked. She wanted to reclaim her mother tongue and make it a real language of her own.

Her goals were very personal: Meira wanted to communicate on a deeper level with her relatives back in Germany and explore the country she came from more easily and more often.

The challenge: a beginner’s language class would be too boring for Meira, while an advanced group would be too challenging to follow. But with Language for Life and Business, Meira received a personalised learning plan that would balance out her German language knowledge through lessons tailored to her individual language goals.

Our Plan for Meira

Her existing knowledge was reinforced and her confidence in what she already knew developed. By mapping out her strengths and weaknesses in the German language, we tailored a specific learning plan for her unique profile and needs.
Structured speaking sessions enabled her to find the confidence to fully express herself on a deeper level. This approach also revealed common vocabulary and everyday expressions which she had always believed were unique to her family!
Everyday vocabulary was incorporated through speaking and online resources, including real-life interviews and German TV series. Having grown up around the German language, she had a natural affinity in listening to and comprehending conversational German. Her confidence grew fast.
Strong foundations were built through covering the missing fundamentals of the German language. Quickly, her confidence in speaking German grew.
So, did we help Meira achieve her language goals?

Meira was thrilled with how quickly she grew in confidence speaking German. Clarifying existing issues, filling in the gaps and getting her to practice regularly revealed how much she already knew. She was delighted how fast she grew comfortable in using the German language.

This was more than a practical exercise of pure language achievement for Meira, of course. She was also often moved by the process of learning her mother tongue properly and revelled in the possibility of using it in real-life communications, beyond those occasional family gatherings.

Since commencing lessons with Language for Life and Business, Meira has visited Germany twice. Her relatives have been excited to see her opening new topics of discussion in German. Going out with German friends, she tells us of feeling free to participate equally in real-life conversations and finally feels like she can experience the local culture first-hand.

Meira continues regular German lessons with Language for Life and Business. Her aims have shifted towards gaining a mastery of German. She has even begun discussing the possibility of moving to Germany and has been exploring professional opportunities in her beloved Berlin.

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How to Buy Your Dream Home

Why Rosie wanted to learn Italian

It had been Rosie’s dream to have a house in Italy ever since she lived in Rome twenty years ago as a student. She was 38 when she joined Language for Life and Business after deciding to fulfil her dream and find a house in Tuscany.

Rosie was not a complete beginner as a language learner when she started with us. She had visited Italy for many years and spoke conversational Italian pretty fluently. But buying a property there meant she needed to learn a more specific and complex language than she already knew.

Her search for a dream home was to begin in three months so we got to work subito!

Our Plan for Rosie

We focussed on specific vocabulary around property and everyday expressions through planned dialogues and written resources.
Original Italian sources (radio programmes, TV and YouTube) were used to form a deeper knowledge of spoken language from realistic Tuscan accents.
We also provided her with information and resources on property taxation and real estate issues, as these are different to the UK.
Every dialogue was recorded so Rosie could continue learning fluency by casually listening to them outside of the lessons and progress very quickly.
Our native Italian teachers also provided local know-how on the cultures of renting and buying in Italy, as well as how to strike a bargain!
So, did we help Rosie to achieve her language goals?

Rosie told us that the most striking difference in her Italian language confidence was a new fluency in her listening skills. By learning the language in its natural flow, she felt confident she wouldn’t misunderstand native speakers.

During her trip, Rosie found her dream home. Better yet, she developed strong personal relationships with the locals and felt welcomed as if she were a native speaker!

Rosie is still a language learner with us, and a very advanced one at that. She has a fluency that allows her to watch Italian films and read Italian books in their original language. This is good practice, but also her way of keeping her dream holiday home close, wherever she is!

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Moving from difficulty to adventure through language

How Claire decided to learn Spanish

Claire sadly lost her husband at the age of 68. With reminders of her lifelong companion all around, she found everyday life difficult to navigate. But a suggestion from Claire’s therapist —to embrace a radical change of environment—changed Claire’s outlook and enjoyment of life.

After selling their house in the British countryside, Claire moved into a new apartment in London and planned to buy a house in Spain. She had always loved visiting Spain and had held a strong desire to live there since her university years. She decided this was to be her radical change and it was now or never!

But there was a barrier: Claire couldn’t stand the strict program and demanding lessons of a conventional language school. She was looking for relaxed one-to-one lessons with a professional tutor native to Spain. She wanted someone who could help her relax into the process of learning the language, while also moving her closer to her dream.

So, after moving to London, Claire came to Language for Life and Business to start learning Spanish, having heard that this was the kind of language learning we uniquely offer.

Our Plan for Claire

No homework and no experience? No problem. Claire’s program had to be specifically tailored to her style of learning, language goals and lifestyle. We designed an approach that kept the focus on regular contact and constant achievement.
We also discussed matters of housing in Spain and even contacted local agents together to help her start looking for her new retreat.
Lessons were relaxed. Time was dedicated to discussing Spanish culture and local customs, so Claire could also learn about Spain beyond its palabras and better understand how she wanted to experience the country.
Phrases and expressions were learned through speaking. Through tailored dialogues that covered everyday encounters, Claire learned to recognise the Spanish language’s natural accent and sounds. These were written down for her too, so she could easily refer back to them afterwards.
Everyday communication skills were our core focus, so any irrelevant or challenging aspects of Spanish were avoided, wherever possible. The aim was for Claire to confidently converse with locals and travel to areas where English is not widely spoken and so her learning plan was tailored to reflect this.
So, did we help Claire achieve her goals?

Claire’s Spanish project entailed more than achieving simple language goals. By providing personalised lessons that went beyond the words, all in a relaxed environment, we aimed to help her realise her dreams for this exciting adventure and thrive in this new life after loss.

We were proud and moved by Claire’s experience of learning Spanish with us. She told us that our lessons became a highlight of her week – a bright note in an otherwise difficult period. She began visiting Spain soon after commencing lessons and found her dream home on her second trip.

Discovering a new country and people helped Claire think positively again and find the strength to gradually get inspired with life again. After finding her house in Spain, she returned to tell us that she could pronounce the word ‘happy’ again without guilt.

A few months later, Claire revealed to us that she was to leave London to live permanently in Spain. The climate and the local culture there had convinced her that she could start a new life, and we were thrilled for her.

Claire continues regular lessons with us through Skype, another great means of learning! Our weekly sessions are exciting for both sides and we are always happy to see her progressing with her Spanish but, most importantly, fully embracing life again.

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Strengthening family ties through language

Why Oliver wanted to learn Greek

A baby brings many challenges, but Oliver had to deal with an extra one:  learning Greek.

Oliver’s wife, Maria, is Greek. When visiting Greece to see family and friends, they have always spoken in English, so Oliver had never felt motivated to learn Greek. But the arrival of their new family member changed all that.

With their son learning Greek through day-to-day life at home from Maria, Oliver discovered a strong desire to learn the language himself. After all, he didn’t want his immediate family chatting in a language he wouldn’t understand!

Oliver took on the challenge to learn Greek shortly after his son’s birth. His goal was simple: to keep pace with his understanding and play a part in helping his son learn.

But there was a barrier: Oliver couldn’t imagine going back into a classroom environment. While he loved his son dearly, he knew he didn’t love school and worried that following that learning path was a sure route to failure.

Thankfully, Oliver found Language for Life and Business. He requested flexible lessons that could fit around his busy schedule and of course we could offer this! He also wanted tailored lessons focused on the vocabulary his son would be learning with Maria, delivered in a style that would help him to keep pace with the little one’s progress.

Our Plan for Oliver

Oliver’s project excited us from the beginning. We have always believed that adults can learn a new language as quickly as a child, so long as they have the right guidance and appropriate method. It was time to put our belief into action!
Foundations were created by comparing the fundamentals of English and Greek languages. This is an advantage adult-learners have over young children – the ability to comprehend the larger structure of a language and approaches to meaning from the outset.
Grammar jargon and irrelevant exercises were cut, as was homework. Instead, grammar was learned in its natural context: through conversation. In this way, Oliver grew into the Greek language in the same way his son was.
Real-life conversations at home were a focus. Oliver would tell us about English conversations and we’d help him learn the Greek equivalents. Greek thus quickly became the language of home for Oliver and his son!
So, did we help Oliver embrace the family tongue?

Oliver was hesitant in the beginning and unsure he could succeed. But he soon settled through our relaxed teaching method and found enjoyment in lessons as their flexible structure enabled him to easily fit language-learning into his busy life.

Within a few months, Oliver was flying and had begun teaching Greek to his son alongside Maria. Greek turned from an overwhelming hurdle into a valuable bonding experience for the whole family. Greek became the language of play and laughter and has also become the go-to language when expressing in this house!

What’s more, Maria’s family and friends in Greece where delightfully shocked when Oliver started effortlessly participating in a Greek conversation during their next visit. This surprise also helped Oliver feel even more welcome as a family member.

Oliver’s only regret? Not learning Greek earlier as he soon discovered all that he had been missing out on.

Oliver keeps taking Greek lessons with us, particularly now that his son, Nicholas, has started challenging him! It’s an exciting journey to be a part of and one in which we strive to help Oliver continue to strengthen the deep bond with his son, Maria and her family.

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